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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April 2004, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Beginner's guide to badminton
General view of play
Badminton enjoys a vast worldwide audience
The speed of badminton leaves its racquet sport rivals wallowing in its wake.

Shuttlecocks travel at speeds up to 200 mph - not bad for a piece of equipment made from sticking 16 goose feathers into a piece of cork.

Such is the speed of the shuttle, players have to possess superb reflexes to keep it in play.

It is estimated that players cover anything up to four miles in a match, thus making stamina and agility key to success.

Rallies last far longer than in tennis - about 10 shots more on average - and the shuttle is in play for roughly double the time. But, like tennis, the court possesses tramlines, acting as boundaries, and a net, far higher at 150cm.

Five disciplines will be on show in Athens; men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.

There will be eight seeds in each of the events, which will all be a straight knockout from the last 16, with qualifiers determined by the world rankings.

DID YOU KNOW?
It was invented in the grounds of the Duke of Beaufort's estate nearly 150 years ago
In singles, the players force opponents to move across the whole court, measuring 44ft by 17ft, forcing them out of position in order to strike the killer blow.

In the team event, where the court is wider by three feet, most teams will try to whip the shuttle low across the net.

This means the opposition can only keep the shuttle in play by lobbing it back over the net, so allowing them to smash the shuttle back at fierce speeds.

Most points are won by errors, such as hitting the net or going outside the court boundaries, rather than courtesy of extravagant winners.

A badminton match is decided by the best of three games. And, in the men's and all doubles, a game is won by the first to reach 15 points - but the winner must be two points clear of their opponent.

In women's singles the first player to 11 points wins.

If a match reaches 14-all (10-all for women) then the players can choose to "set", which means the first person or team that reaches 17 wins the game (13 for women's singles).

If the players choose not to "set" then the game finishes at the usual point.

Points can only be scored on a serve, while the receiving side seeks solely to win the right to serve.





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